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The Mayor of Castro Street : The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

by Randy Shilts

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7021926,969 (4.16)16
"The Mayor of Castro Street" is Shilts's acclaimed story of Harvey Milk, the man whose personal life, public career, and tragic assassination mirrored the dramatic and unprecedented emergence of the gay community in America during the 1970s. His is a story of personal tragedies and political intrigues, assassination in City Hall and massive riots in the streets, the miscarriage of justice and the consolidation of gay power and gay hope.… (more)
  1. 00
    When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones (Kiddboyblue)
    Kiddboyblue: Cleve Jones was Harvey Milk's prodigy and in many ways took up the mantle for Milk after his death.
  2. 00
    San Francisco's Castro by Strange De Jim (LibraryRCDallas)

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» See also 16 mentions

English (18)  German (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
  Klookschieter | Aug 18, 2020 |
I re-read this book for a book group. Originally, I read it in the 1980s, and it shaped my perspective on the gay rights movement and the development of urban safe spaces for LGBT people. Often, books do not hold up when I reread them, but this one did. It reminded me of Randy Shilts' remarkable decade of incredible productivity, which included And the Band Played On (his chronicle of the AIDS epidemic) and Conduct Unbecoming (his exploration of the gay people serving in the U.S. military, which came well before the ultimate changes during President Obama's first term). And thus, it reminded me of the loss of Shilts and an entire generation of other creative people.

It's a satisfying read and the story of a city in a particular time. That San Francisco is long gone now, not only because so many of the people who lived in the Castro perished from AIDS, but also because that city experienced gentrification to such an extreme degree. Harvey Milk was the kind of person who moved to San Francisco in the 1970s but who could never afford to live there now. People with normal jobs and middle class income levels can't afford San Franscisco any more.

The developments of the 1970s changed the city for the better, and it remains a special place. Along with David Talbot's Season of the Witch, The Mayor of Castro Street is an essential book for understanding how that happened. ( )
  STLreader | Aug 15, 2020 |
I read this for Pride month. A moving, powerful story that details the contradictions of one man's life, his flaws, but especially his heroism. The book is also a portrait of the times he lived in, and I was astounded to learn about the dark corners of the world I grew up in (I was in high school when Harvey Milk was assassinated). I can't recommend this book more highly. Read it! ( )
  vlodko62 | Dec 29, 2018 |
Where do I start in talking about this book? There is so much to discuss, but I will limit myself. First, this is nominally a biography of Harvey Milk, and it does a fine job of it, but it is also, equally, a history of the gay rights movement and a history of San Francisco politics. For those tasks, the author does just as well, sometimes not even mentioning Harvey Milk for entire chapters. For the first fifteen chapters, the book sets the stage for reaching what the majority of people know about Harvey Milk, namely his death and the trial of his killer. While that early part of the book is very good and well worth reading in its own right, the remaining chapters are some of the best and most interesting reporting I have ever written, being all the more vivid because of the foundation that the author laid down earlier. I highly suspect that there is detail included of which even San Franciscans of the time are not aware. The author says as much at the end of his book. There was much to surprise me about Milk and about San Francisco politics. I have been concurrently reading yet another book about the segregationist American Deep South, a period of time in which whites were seldom arrested and very rarely convicted of crimes against blacks. This book provides ample evidence that gays have suffered a similar fate. In fact, I am certain that there are those who will believe this entire book is mere fiction, inspired by, if not actually written by the devil. Rational people will know otherwise. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
A good book that is perhaps a little too ambitious If you've seen "Milk" with Sean Penn than you're probably at least heard of the subject of this book, Harvey Milk. A gay man who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was definitely a fascinating look at the the politics of San Francisco, a man who could be quite calculating and callous (both personally and professionally) in his rise to be on it, and the sad end of two promising politicians (but perhaps opened the door for others).
The book mostly chronicles Milk's life, but also looks at the politics and society around him. Reading the book today had parts that seem downright antiquated (to put it nicely), it's also sad when one reflects on how in some ways, acceptance for gays and lesbians have come very far, and in some ways, not very far at all. 
It was interesting to see a more detailed (vs. the film "Milk") look at Harvey, from his acceptance of his sexual orientation, to his pursuit of various lovers (many of whom, unfortunately, were not healthy relationships) to his rise as an activist and eventual politician. This, for me, was the strength of the book. The story of Harvey Milk, in the frame of his time in San Francisco.
But unfortunately I felt Shilts went a little too far and a little too broadly. He tries to heavily incorporate how San Francisco became a haven for gay men (he notes that Milk did not interact with lesbians in his note in the book) and the political landscape of which Milk was entering into when he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors. The author acknowledges that Milk did not have a lot of contact with them, but I was disappointed in seeing how little women and lesbians were portrayed in this book. As I am not an expert at all on gay and lesbian groups in San Francisco during this time period (or at all!) I had hoped there would be a little more comprehensive look or an acknowledgement of what kind of role they played.
That said, I also thought he delved a little too much into San Francisco politics. I got lost in myriad of names after awhile, and I have some familiarity with some of the players (some of whom still serve or only left office recently, etc.) I get that Harvey Milk was a significant player in the midst of all this, but I thought the book was trying to be both a biography of the subject and the history of gay and lesbians in San Francisco, especially focusing on their political involvement. Which in itself was fine, but I think the political involvement (or a separate book about LGBT groups in SF) might have made a fantastic separate book by Shilts.
I knew how the basic storyline (Milk's life) would end, but it was nice to see little bits and pieces of the lives many of the players of the book went onto after Milk's death, and to see the legacy he left behind. Unfortunately, this book was published in 1982 and Shilts later died of AIDS, which perhaps is part of the reason why the book seems a little out of date. I normally strongly dislike books by journalists (for me it feels like a lot of reporters/journalists can't translate what works in newspapers to books). This book really isn't perfect, but overall it was a good read, and seemed like a timely read in light of Indiana's "religious freedom" law.
Definitely recommended for Harvey Milk, but for a more comprehensive look at LGBT people in San Francisco (or general SF politics) at this time I suspect there are probably better references out there to supplement this book. ( )
  HoldMyBook | Feb 11, 2018 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Randy Shiltsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Schmid, BernhardÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vietor, MarcNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"The Mayor of Castro Street" is Shilts's acclaimed story of Harvey Milk, the man whose personal life, public career, and tragic assassination mirrored the dramatic and unprecedented emergence of the gay community in America during the 1970s. His is a story of personal tragedies and political intrigues, assassination in City Hall and massive riots in the streets, the miscarriage of justice and the consolidation of gay power and gay hope.

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